Building an Ethic of Caring in the Classroom: 5 Protocols for Promoting a Caring Classroom

My Post (3)

Check out the first post of the series HERE.

The temperature we set in our classroom matters. While the literal thermostat in a classroom does matter (“Why is it so hot in here?”), the thermostat I am writing about is the instructional climate we set for our students, which I believe should be challenging but comfortable—where challenges can be taken on in a caring, trustworthy space. How we do this comes in many forms, and I would argue context, of course, matters. But I would also argue there are few actions any teacher can take to create a caring classroom that students want to enter every day. This shouldn’t surprise us, but really, it always goes back to good ol’ Maslow. In today’s post, I explore a few practical protocols any teacher can put into motion tomorrow in his or her classroom. Continue reading

PBL: Success from Start to Finish

Another great edutopia article was recently released with both a great review of an entirely PBL school out in Manor, Texas as well as some great resources on how to get PBL started and be a success in your school.

Click here for the article and resources.

Check out the article for yourself and hopefully find yourself inspired.

A Parent’s Guide to 21st-Century Learning

Edutopia has just released a great digital booklet on how to put a finger on what 21st-century learning skills really are and how they are reflected in project-based learning. Thank you to Suzie Boss for posting it first on her blog.

Here is a link:

You’ll have to sign in to download it, but I’ve skimmed it and plan to send the link to my students’ parents this week. It does a really nice job explaining the what, how, and when questions that come along with shifting the common classroom’s focus away from more traditional settings.

I especially enjoy the emphasis on the four Cs: Collaboration, Creativity, Communication, and Critical Thinking

Time to Break the Ice

Tomorrow is the first day of school. As Shakespeare has so eloquently put it there will be “the whining schoolboy with his satchel/and shining morning face, creeping like snail/unwillingly to school.”  (Not much has changed in 450 years.) I have had a few students and teachers tell me they aren’t ready to go back quite yet. The way I see it you can’t stop the first day from coming so you might as well embrace it. And embrace it I will.

The first day can be a bit awkward. Students are present but not always there; everyone is nervous and uncertain of what class will be like for the year; teachers have to go over the mundane nature of the course syllabus, and the list goes on and on. Inevitably, someone has to break the ice and get the party–I mean year–started.

So in honor of educators everywhere looking to start the year off right, here are some interesting and unique ice breakers you can use in class this week (or in the weeks to come if you’re not starting school quite yet):

Octopus Pyramid Build
Builds: Communication Skills, Teamwork
Supplies: String, Rubber Bands, 10 Solo cups per group
The How: To play, you’ll need to make ‘the octopus’ first. cut six to eight strand of string that are about 6″ each and tie them to a rubber band in a circle. (You’ll repeat this for every group you expect to have.) Have students in groups of six each take one of the strings attached to the rubber band. Students must now work together to grab solo cups with ‘the octopus’ and build a ten cup pyramid. The first group to assemble a pyramid wins.
Wrap-Up: One great way to conclude the ice breaker is have the winning group explain how they they pulled it off and ask other groups what held them back. I like to use this activity as a way to talk about team work and communication.

Yarn Web
Builds: Understanding, Connections
Supplies: Spool of Yarn
The How: Have students stand in a circle, or oval if you’d like, and have one student start with the spool of yarn. You can do this a couple of different ways, but usually I come up three different questions students can ask each other and answer. The questions should  be interesting and unique so students get to see each other in a new light. The first student answers any of the three questions and then tosses it to any one they want in the circle then they ask the person who catches the spool a question. After answering, that person holds on to their part of the yarn and tosses to to someone else and asks a  question. This continues until each person gets the yarn. The result should be a very cool looking web between all the students.
Wrap-Up: I like to conclude this activity by pointing out how the web physically connects us and that we have some interesting similarities. I also try to get feedback from the students about something interesting they learned from the other students.
Twist: You can also have students answer just one question and each person has to remember the previous students’ answers.

Mystery Solvers
Builds: Communication, Teamwork, Problem Solving
Supplies: Get everything from this link: Peter Pappas 
The How: This activity was just shown to me by Suzie Boss of Edutopia. All the directions are on the link above, but basically you randomly split students into groups of five or six and give each student in a group five to six clues. (Each group gets all the clues for the mystery) The students in the group have to work together to solve the mystery through communicating the clues they have.
Wrap-up: I’ll actually use this for the first time tomorrow. I plan on concluding the activity by talking about the keys to collaboration in a group and the importance of different ways of problem solving. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I hope you can find one of these useful. To all those teachers and students starting school this week or next, best of luck, embrace the inevitable, and have some fun. Cheers!

There and Back Again

Great starting point for any educator looking to get into PBL!

It has been a long, but very rewarding year. The year culminated just these past three days with a PBL workshop for my district with the aid and guidance of the ever lovely Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss. I mentioned them both in my previous post about PBL. Suzie is a writer for Edutopia and Jane was a classroom teacher for over twenty years, but both are authors of the book Reinventing Project-Based Learning. They were absolutely wonderful to work with.

We were allowed to bring about fifty teachers to this workshop. We aimed to bring as many teachers who were unfamiliar with PBL as possible. That little detail is important because if I haven’t made it clear in the past, I”ll make it clearer now–PBL scares people. Change frightens most of us and the paradigm shift that is needed for a teacher to be successful with PBL is no exception. The good news to come out of our workshop is that now we have several more advocates of PBL in my school and in my district! I consider this a huge win considering some the bumps and bruises a colleague and I endured to make it really happen at my school this year. (It was all worth it!) The three days were honestly the three most valuable professional learning days I’ve ever experienced. I suppose it should be noted that my passion for using PBL in large public schools does make going to this particular kind of professional learning a bit more motivational.

I promised myself I’d keep this entry brief. I am embedding a Prezi that I presented at the workshop this past week. I had several colleagues request it, so I see no harm in sharing it with you all as well. I encourage all of you to check out Suzie’s and Jane’s blog, and if you’ve never visited Edutopia then you certainly should soon. Happy project building!

(Click Link Below to get to Prezi)